Whatever you may think of divas and divos, we need them. In one way or another, we all need ‘something’ in our lives. An idol or a hero that makes us forget our daily worries and enriches us with that touch of… glamour? Dreams that come true? Dreams that may come true? Dreams?
Much more important than that, especially for the less dreamy among us, is the fact that, thanks to the divos and the divas, we are given the opportunity to admire a great many new, unknown and forgotten works. Thanks to their status, they are the ones calling the shots in the (in this case) opera industry. So, especially at their request, operas that you would otherwise never be able to hear live, are not only programmed for the stage, but also released on DVD.
Thus, Clari, a totally forgotten opera by Jacques Fromental Halévy, we really owe to Cecilia Bartoli. She rediscovered the opera and it is thanks to her that it was produced. This is not very surprising. The opera was composed for Maria Malibran and since La Bartoli has been very much into Malibran lately, it was to be expected that she would have another ‘Malibran delicacy’ in store for us.
Jacques Fromental Halévy, a few years back virtually unknown, is no longer a rarity. His La Juive now tours all the major opera houses and has even, in a brilliant production by Pierre Audi, visited Amsterdam (It’s not coming back. Why? Why so many dreadful productions and not this one? Who makes such idiotic decisions?).
But anyway: Clari? Has anyone ever heard of Clari? Forget about grand-opéra, because they are miles apart. Clari was premiered in the Théatre-Italien in Paris in 1828 and then disappeared from the stage. It is very light weight. But it’s such a delightful little gem!
Clari is a real opera semi-seria, so (a little) dramatic and (a lot) comic at the same time. The choice of this division is due to the excellent directors (Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier). And we get a happy ending.
If someone had told me that this was a recently rediscovered unknown Rossini, I would have believed it. But Cherubini, also, is never far away.
The staging reminds me most of pop art. And of Tom Wesselmann’s paintings: pink fridge, blue walls, pastel shades everywhere … The directors talk about ‘Foto-novella, of course there is something in that, but it is also strongly rooted in the Internet era.
What is it about? A poor but oh-so-beautiful country girl is cheated by a prince. He promises to marry her, but once at his court, he introduces her as his niece. In honour of her name day, a play is performed that confronts her with her past. She faints and she decides to return to her parental home. Her father shows her the door, but the prince travels after her with a marriage contract. All’s well that ends well. ‘ John Osborn is a really delightful Duca. His voice is supple and agile. His topnotes unparalleled. And he can act.
Bartoli looks (the close-up era!) a bit old to portray a naive teenager. She seems more like a woman of the world than a village girl, but who cares? She sings the 3 octaves needed for the role in a more than adequate way and her acting is pleasant. What more do we want?
Is the opera original? No. Innovating? No. Masterpiece? No. But it is such great fun! Especially the Zurich production
Jacques Fromental Halévy Clari Cecilia Bartoli, John Osborn, Eva Liebau, Oliver Wittmer, Giuseppe Scorsin, Carlos Chausson, Stefania Kaluza Orchestra La Scintilla en het koor van van de Opernhaus Zürich olv Adam Fischer Regie: Moshe Leiser en Patrice Caurier Decca 0743382